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Your Digital Transformation Must be More than a Tool Upgrade

When we start thinking about a digital transformation, we often focus on the technology element of the process while ignoring the bigger changes we need to make.


Modern business needs to transform, because the world is becoming a smaller place for everyone. Business owners can now enter new markets, exert international influence and build their brand on a minimal footprint, thanks to today’s technology. We have chat-bots, voice-activated software, social media, automated systems and virtual reality, all of which seek to change our processes. These are exciting technological advancements to incorporate into any business. But they’re not just add-ons.


Executives who’ve been in the workforce for 30, 40 or even 50 years might need to a little help to arrive at the paradigm shift they need. They see a technology upgrade. Those of us who are invested in digital transformation must show these leaders, and their staff, the tangible benefits of a complete transformation instead.


Reinventing the wheel? No! Trading in the whole car!


Digital transformation is critical for any organization that wants to survive in the near future. Although some might argue that we’re already living in this future, many business and industries are still living in the past. They’re stuck on the idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or “we know our customers, we don’t need social media.”


Let’s take the idea of the wheel as an analogy. Stone wheels travel in the same general way that a modern tire does. But how effective and comfortable would the driving be if your vehicle drove on rock instead of rubber?


And more importantly, if you’re driving a vehicle with stone wheels in the first place, you can’t just switch to rubber tires and expect all the parts to work together properly. You need a total overhaul. We must address the entire agency instead of trying to transform one element of it. If we only try to alter one dynamic, then someone will take up a chisel—great for sharpening rock tires, but sure to deflate the new kind!




How do we keep the focus on transformation?


There are four practical ways to introduce a meaningful digital transformation to people in any industry, no matter how long they’ve been doing things the same way.


1. Keep the expectations realistic.


If a business is not using computers in the workplace right now, then having them create a website is not the correct first step. A digital transformation requires us to build skills for each employee, from the part-timers up to the C-suite, so that everyone can discover how their productivity improves when the technology shifts. We should not be looking too far into the future.


2. Avoid silo strategies.


A digital transformation does not happen if you decide to focus on only one strategy. This approach creates incremental thinking, which improves processes separately from one another. If you want to have an impactful change, you need a broad range of management interventions to support a broad range of technology improvements.


3. Put visionary leaders in charge.


Change always starts from the top. Leaders who implement digital transformations don’t see their work as being project-based. They see themselves as introducing a new level of capability to their entire business. By engaging people with their vision, then navigating a course toward an entire platform change instead of individual elements, they can keep the focus on the “transformation” element of the update instead of limiting their vision to the various digital elements that go into it.


4. Remember, it’s a group effort.


Companies often delegate their digital transformation needs to their IT Director (or someone in a similar position) because they think “digital” equates to “technology.” You could have a superstar as your Chief Information Officer and still fail to transform areas of the business outside IT proper. A digital transformation process works best when the whole leadership team is involved in the change, instead of one leader doing everything on their own.

In short, you need way more than a tire to help someone stop using stone wheels. Give them the reasons why digital transformation is better than the status quo, then demonstrate the benefits. From there, work on putting the winning conditions in place. This way, instead of upgrading our technology and calling it a day, we can focus on transformation.